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The Morning Dish – Thursday, January 22, 2015

January 22, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments
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More than halfway through the 2014-15 season now, the story of what Keno Davis is doing at Central Michigan is one that has been a rather well-kept secret. It’s time that the secret started being let out.

The son of Dr. Tom Davis is engineering quite the turnaround. Central Michigan has won 10, 11, 11 and 10 games over the last four years, but is now 13-3 in Davis’s third year in Mount Pleasant after an 84-73 comeback win Wednesday night over a very good Buffalo team in the Mid-American Conference.

For those who want more scoring in college basketball, the Chippewas are doing it with a three-point bombing offense that is one of the finest in the country. Central Michigan came into Wednesday night averaging 11.1 threes per game, but obliterated that total against Buffalo, hitting 16 of 29 from deep. John Simons and Braylon Rayson both hit five long balls each, three-point specialist Josh Kozinski added three and Blake Hibbitts added two more. The Chippewas were 8 of 11 from three in outscoring Buffalo 46-28 in the second half.

This isn’t the first time this season that CMU has blown up from behind the half-moon line. Keno’s Bombinos made 19 of 27 just last week against Miami (Ohio), hit 16 of 38 against Central Pennsylvania, 15 of 33 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and were an incredible 20 of 35 in December against SIU-Edwardsville.

For the season, the Chippewas rank second in the nation in scoring (85.2 points per game) and triples made per game and are fourth in three-point field goal percentage (41.4%). Interestingly, CMU actually has a fair amount of size. Davis regularly plays a rotation with five players that are 6-foot-8 or taller (including freshman seven-footer Luke Meyer), but it just so happens Simons (6-8) and Hibbitts (6-7) combined shoot 80.3% of their shots from three-point range. Rather than fighting it, Davis has embraced it and is allowing his team to do what it does best.

The result is a pretty darn good team and yet another entrant in what was already an outstanding race for a conference title. Central Michigan and Buffalo (which is having another good season itself under Bobby Hurley) are just two of about eight teams that could easily be seen winning the MAC this year. Come March, there may not be a more competitive conference tournament in the country.

Side Dishes:

  • Baylor defeated NAIA member Huston-Tillotson (Texas) 81-61 in a game notable for a couple reasons: 1) The Bears struggled with a team that came in with a 3-14 record; 2) The game showed something that most close to the sport know, that the NAIA is a quality level of play with some really good athletes and players, and 3) most importantly, Rico Gathers finished with 25 points and a Big 12-record 28 rebounds.
  • Wake Forest hung with North Carolina for a half before its leaky defense became too much to keep up. The Tar Heels ran off to an 87-71 win, shooting 60.3%.
  • Butler dealt Creighton another heartbreaking loss, winning 64-61 to send the Jays to 0-7 in the Big East.
  • Wichita State continues to improve and continues to roll through the MVC. The Shockers hammered reeling Missouri State 76-53. Also in the Valley, Northern Iowa held off a challenge from Indiana State for a 66-60 win and Evansville gained revenge for an earlier loss to Loyola (Ill.) at home by grabbing a 65-56 win in Chicago.
  • Utah was dominant at home again, taking care of Washington State 86-64. Brandon Taylor is an underrated spark plug on this team and he had 18 points and seven assists.
  • Oklahoma State never trailed in defeating Texas Tech 63-43, an important win after OSU had lost three of its previous four.
  • Tulsa was impressive once again, hammering Memphis 73-55 to stay atop the AAC. SMU stayed half a game behind the Golden Hurricane with an impressive 66-52 win at Tulane. So far, Larry Brown’s team has responded very well after all of its recent bad news.
  • St. John’s proved you can win and lose on the same night. The Red Storm defeated Marquette 60-57 for its third Big East win, but it also lost with the awful gray uniforms it sported for the game. Like UCLA, Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky and others, a program with SJU’s history shouldn’t need to resort to gimmicks like this. The gray uniform fad officially needs to stop.
  • The SJU/Marquette game was actually the first of another doubleheader at Madison Square Garden. In the second game, St. Francis (N.Y.) defeated Central Connecticut State 63-51. Love the doubleheaders at MSG.
  • Keep an eye on Texas A&M. The Aggies are now 12-5 after a 62-50 win over Missouri.
  • Illinois keeps lurking in the conversation. The Fighting Illini topped Purdue 66-57 at home.
  • New Mexico won at UNLV 71-69. The Lobos continue to fly under the radar and have the look of an NIT semifinalist-type team, while the Runnin’ Rebels are now 10-9. Meanwhile, the team that just won at New Mexico, Boise State, destroyed seriously undermanned San Jose State 86-36.
  • Army knocked off Patriot leader Colgate 65-64, tightening the conference race considerably. The Raiders are now one-half game ahead of Bucknell, which defeated Loyola (Md.) 75-61.
  • Davidson guard Jack Gibbs has been diagnosed with a meniscus tear and will be out for an undetermined amount of time. Gibbs was injured Tuesday night in the Wildcats’ win over Dayton.
  • Hoopville’s Phil Kasiecki has notes from the final day of the Hoophall Classic here.

Tonight’s Menu:
St. Mary’s at Gonzaga (11 p.m. EST, ESPNU)  The latest meeting in one of the very best series on the West Coast. Can’t necessarily expect the Gaels to win this, but if they can take it down to the final five minutes that would say a lot.
Arizona at Stanford (9 p.m. EST, ESPN2) 
The Cardinal still feels like something of a quiet mystery team even at 13-4. Time to start finding out more.
Maryland at Indiana (9 p.m. EST, ESPNU) 
Another road challenge for the Terps.
DePaul at Seton Hall (7 p.m. EST, FS1) 
True contender, or just off to a hot start in conference? That’s the question many are wondering about the Blue Demons.
N.C. State at Miami (Fla.) 
A quality win available here for the two teams who have defeated Duke.
Murray State at Eastern Illinois (9 p.m. EST, CBSSN)
 Terrific, big OVC matchup. Racers have won 13 in a row, Panthers nine straight.
Alabama at Arkansas (7 p.m. EST, ESPN2) 
Interested to see where the Crimson Tide’s season is going after losing two in a row. Games like these are where Anthony Grant’s team has surprised this year.
UTEP at Western Kentucky (9 p.m. EST, FSN) 
The Hilltoppers, not the Miners, are tied with Louisiana Tech for the top spot in Conference USA, but UTEP is just a game behind.

Have a great Thursday.

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